Government has plans for potential disaster at Tahoe |

Government has plans for potential disaster at Tahoe

Susan Wood

The only surprise emergency officials protecting Lake Tahoe Basin citizens want to deal with is the one they may experience if the federal government fails to come through with funding in the event of disaster.

That’s because with large wildland fires topping the list of primary concerns, emergency officials contend it’s a question of when it will happen, not if.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency requires states and local jurisdictions to turn in emergency plans to receive funding for pre-disaster grants. This is one of three forms of grant funding offered. The other two may be provided after a disaster has been declared and the other involves specific funding for floods.

FEMA has recorded plans from both California and Nevada.

“That means they’re good to go,” FEMA risk manager Deb Ingram said from her Washington, D.C., office Wednesday.

The plans must identify hazards, assess risks, outline infrastructure a government wants to protect and solutions to prevent such a disaster.

Douglas County submitted its plan before the Nov. 1 deadline, but it has not heard back whether the plan was approved or not.

El Dorado County’s Office of Emergency Services is still working on its plan.

Dick Mirgon, the Douglas County director of communications and emergency management, is holding his breath out of concern.

He’s skeptical FEMA would guarantee any funds based on its history.

Douglas County was once chosen as one of 250 communities nationwide under Project Impact, a federal emergency preparedness program that offered money for local communities for efforts to prevent disasters. Douglas received $250,000 before the program was nixed in 2001 – four years after it formed.

The Nevada county bought flood gauges and launched an educational effort with the money.

“It was the best thing FEMA ever did, but it was axed because of politics. We were fortunate to be a part of it. It was cut by the Bush Administration – not because it wasn’t a worthy project,” he said.

Ironically, Seattle was celebrating its third anniversary of its signing on with the program when a 6.8-magnitude earthquake struck the area in February 2001.

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